The River Sand Trade of Galmpton Creek
Written by John Risdon, Galmpton and Churston District Local History Group, March 2021.
Considerable areas of the tidal estuary bed from Dittisham up to Totnes consisted of sand. These were deposits of sand eroded and washed down from Dartmoor. The sand is largely made up of particles of granite, angular in shape due to the hardness of the original material and often referred to as sharp sand. By late Victorian times it had assumed a considerable value, mainly in construction but also in horticulture.
The ketch & sand dredger ‘EFFORT’:
Length – 67ft
Breadth – 18ft
Draught – 8ft
Built – 1880 at Kingsbridge
Gross tonnage – 66 tons
Initially Galmpton was bypassed in providing Dart sand for the energetic expansion of Torquay during the latter years of the 19th century, especially the expansion of the harbour area. Two sister ships, MIZPAH and EFFORT, sailing ketches (above), dredged the sandbanks at high water and then sailed round to Torbay and Torquay with their cargoes. Dredging was carried out with a canvas bag being dragged along the length of the vessel.
During the 1930’s, Torquay Council raised the landing fees and the Langmead family, who ran the business, took over the ‘old timber seasoning quay’ at Galmpton and converted it into the Sand-quay.
During 1938/39 both vessels were laid up, EFFORT on the beach at Galmpton, and MIZPAH at Old Mill Creek. A new iron constructed sand Barge EFFORT II was built at Noss. She would be entirely powered by a 1914 Kelvin 60/70 H.P. engine, taken from her predecessor. This engine served its purpose until 1968, a year before the winding up of the business. The 20th century had truly arrived!
A mobile steam-grab on rails, screen, wash, and weighbridge were installed (part of the rail track & weighbridge are still visible today 2021). This entire modernisation had become viable by now, following the introduction of the internal combustion engine and the development of the lorry, to carry the sand to Torquay, and other customers by road.
In the later years sand would be taken from between Stoke Gabriel and Sharpham, the last deposits of good quality sand. It would take four hours to load the barge with a full cargo of 130 tons and two hours to unload. With neap tides only 50 tons could be loaded.
The Langmeads were a Torquay family although George moved to Galmpton to live. The entire crew of EFFORT II were Langmeads, the skipper, a deck-hand, and George, the engineer, who I knew well during the latter years of his life.
EFFORT II (being passed by one of the river paddle steamers) proceeding between Dittisham and Greenway Quay during the inter war years
River sand off-loaded onto Greenway Quay, 1939
At this time the river communities of Dittisham and Galmpton were still close knit.